Op Ed: The Wrong Side of Digital, Those Who Overlook and Those Who Overreach (Part 2)

By Matt Van Hoven 

Again, from our industry reporter, Shape 78:

Last week’s little write-up about digital-savvy companies sure got industry folks all riled up judging by the immediate influx of comments. While I’ll grudgingly agree that a few parties slipped through the cracks and missed a mention, from my vantage point, the right choices were made so let’s move on, shall we?


As promised in my previous post, I’d like to focus on the art of doing digital wrong. Obviously this was a much trickier task considering that there are way too many agencies and shops that have embraced the discipline these days, for better or for worse. Not to mention the zillion facets comprising a digital/interactive/mobile/interweb campaign nowadays, from Facebook apps and widgets to augmented reality and transmogrification. So rather than scroll through each and every recent creative execution, which would likely induce an aneurysm within hours, I’d prefer to discuss two distinct, yet perplexing subjects that pertain to this certain part of the industry.

TBWA/Chiat/Day, Los Angeles:
Nifty contextual banners for Apple and corporate microsites aside, where has this agency been on the digital front? Yes, they’ve recently crafted interesting TV creative for Snickers and Gatorade, dominated awards season with the Skittles work and have unleashed an endless, yet enjoyable series of battles between PC and Mac. But unless I’ve overlooked something, when it comes to any innovative digital work, the West Coast operation’s harder to find than a Pauly Shore fan.

Thankfully, though, Agency.com was there to shoulder some of that responsibility for Mars with its Skittles (non)site that many quickly (and fairly) deemed a rip-off of Modernista’s platform from last year. Still, with all that Agency.com weathered with the Subway “Fist Bump” fallout, it’s nice to see them rebound somewhat and slowly remove the stubborn monkey from their back. But with TBWA, Los Angeles, perhaps it’s just written in their doctrine that digital work is best left to sister agencies abroad or that the Apple account alone takes too much of their time. Whatever the case, along with their East Coast counterpart, the non-traditional output is sorely lacking.

The agency/digital shop credit war:
This has been a perennial issue over the years when it comes to digital campaigns, specifically microsites. If the agency of record oversees and lays the foundation for the project, but the outsourced digital shop does all the dirty work in creating the website and other elements, should the latter party not get the bulk of the credit? Now, I hate to point out a specific example of this, but then again the grinning devil on my right shoulder tells me that I really shouldn’t.

The massive Halo 3 campaign first made me aware of this trend and was a classic clusterfuck where one large agency consistently tried to override the contributions of its smaller partners. But more recently, let’s just say the West Coast branch of a certain numerically titled agency not once but twice took the lion’s share of credit for the web portion of an Adidas campaign. While the digital shops involved were instantly miffed and quick to call out the credit bogarting, there is a certain hierarchical precedent that has yet to be broken when it comes to digital work.

Sure, these are delicate relationships and creative partners have to ultimately work together to develop a successful campaign for their client. But after a digital campaign is all wrapped and released, those in the media then sometimes have to be the third party in a credit tug-of-war between the creative partners, where emails, IMs and phone calls are the weapons. “We actually did this,” “they didn’t do this,” blah, blah, when will this melodrama all end? I understand that the agency of record is the catalyst for the campaign, but when it comes down to the creative nitty-gritty &#151 specifically with web work &#151 the AORs should take their E-G-O’s down a notch and give credit where credit is rightfully due. Otherwise, you’re just clogging my damn mailbox and inbox.

Anyways, the textual spillage must cease for now. Next time, let’s set sail and visit those digital shops abroad to see who’s creating the most compelling work and if any creative differences exist outside our borders.

More: “Op Ed: Digital Done Right and Three Companies That Seem to Get It (Part 1)